Every-day Thoughts in Prose and Verse
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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        Marriage Laws Need Improvement.

    "The records of our divorce courts and the position which
woman is taking to-day tend to show that, so far as she is con-
cerned, unity with man under our present marriage code is
not a success.
    "Taking the race as it stands to-day, with its higher de-
veloped faculties over primitive man, would a regime of free
love improve man and woman's moral condition toward each
other?  I leave the question of children out in this discussion,
because the law might still protect them under free love, as it
does under marriage."

    The writer of the lines quoted above is a woman,
and she jumps to conclusions with woman's
usual illogical dexterity.  The records of our
divorce courts, voluminous as they are, do not
prove by any means that marriage is a failure.
    The unhappy marriages of society cry aloud to
the world--the happy ones go their way silently.
    It is a great pity in this world that happiness is
not as talkative as misery.  It would make sound
pleasanter to the ear.
    Take any street in any village or city.  Acquaint
yourself with the domestic life of every family, and
you will find not one in one hundred divorced--not
one in fifty wishing to be--not one in twenty who,
whatever little rifts in the lute, put to the test,
would accept separation.  You will find troubles
and worries and critisms and fault-findings exist-
ing between scores of husbands and wives, just as
you find them between parents and children, and
brothers and sisters; but these are the faults of
human nature, not of the marriage system.
    Just when my correspondent means by "free
love" I do not know, unless it is the liberty of liv-
ing in the sexual relation without the marriage cer-
    There are many people in the world who have
tried this system, and it is yet to prove a lasting
success as a means to happiness.
    It is not the marriage ceremony which causes dis-
cord in families, it is selfishness in one or both par-
    "Free love" does not change the nature of a
human being.  A man might be more considerate
of a woman for a time if he realized that she could
leave him at any moment, and still retain her social
and moral place in the world, but if he were selfish
and tyrannical, these faults would display them-
selves eventually.
    So would the discordant and disagreeable qual-
ities which render many women failures in married
    The question of children can hardly be left out of
a discussion of this matter.  Since children result
from the cohabiting of man and woman, it is neces-
sary to consider them when a new social order is
    The woman who bore a child by Mr. A, and then
found him an uncongenial mate, and resolved to
live with Mr. B, and after a few years discovered
his faults and went upon her way of freedom rejoic-
ing in search of Mr. C, would need a book-keeper
to accompany her and keep account of the varied
parentage and proper names of her children.
    And just who should provide for these children
would be a matter necessitating some sort of law.
    So long as law must exist in governing the attrac-
tion of the sexes and its results, our present mar-
riage laws may as well be considered the best the
civilized world has known.
    I believe in separation when contracting par-
ties cease to care for each other, and in divorce
when there is a question of the care of children or
fortune to decide.
    But it is people, not the marriage laws, who need
    Improve humanity, and marriage will take care
of itself.

Every-day thoughts in prose and verse. by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Chicago: W. B. Conkey Company, 1901.
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